The moment has come when I have finally given in to the hype around the book of “Normal People”, simply because I couldn’t help my curiosity anymore (& because I wanted to have a direct comparison between the book & the series). From my perception, this book is made for a target group of readers between around 13 and 23 years old, seeing them as the ones who might really enjoy it. I wasn’t expecting much, since I’m usually not a huge of stories around the topic of a simple relationship between two characters, so at least I wasn’t too disappointed.
What I appreciated the most during the reading experience was the style of the book. Even though no quotation marks were used whatsoever, you could still follow the dialogues effortlessly. While the story wasn’t a very long one, just about 266 pages, I believe I still managed to read it faster than another book of similar length. It had a certain addictive page-turning factor to it that made you want to read it on & on. It drew you in completely & had your entire attention focused on it, making you flip from one page to the next in order to find out how the story went on. There were quite a few quirky descriptions that I highlighted, which slowed down the reading & made you go through the phrases multiple times in order to enjoy them fully.
“Her face lacks definition around the cheeks and jaw. It’s a face like a piece of technology, and her two eyes are cursors blinking. Or it’s reminiscent of the moon reflected in something, wobbly and oblique.” (p. 9)
“He wrote about coming from the U-Bahn station in Schönleinstraße to find it was suddenly dark out, and the fronds of trees waving over them like spooky fingers, and the noise from bars, and the smell of pizza and exhaust fumes.” (p. 157)
“The heat beats down on the back of Connell’s neck like the feeling of human eyes staring.” (p. 160)
“[…] He felt the old beat of pleasure inside his body, like watching a perfect goal, like the rustling movement of light through leaves, a phrase of music from the window of a passing car.” (p. 222)
“His appearance is a favourite piece of music to her, sounding a little different each time she hears it.” (p. 225)
The main topic circles, just as the title suggests it, around what it means to be “normal”. Whether that’s the social status in high school or university, the relations with ones family, ones mental state or even ones sexual preferences. They all get touched upon in the novel, so that you’re not getting a sugar coated version of a teenager’s story of their first love. It’s more of a ragged tale with character, involving sex, drugs, alcohol & aggression, making it a very realistic depiction of life.
“He had just wanted to be normal, to conceal the parts of himself that he found shameful and confusing.” (p. 212)
The characters were constructed in an absolutely impeccable way. They were raw, imperfect, conflicted – exactly that made them feel so much more real. Their actions made me shake my head in disbelief while reading through certain passages or their behaviour reminded me of situations when I would be giving advice to a friend to not get involved with those kind of guys anymore, which ended up just like talking to a wall. I can see my younger teenager-self hopping up & down with joy & excitement about this book. Being able to identify with this girl who has never kissed a guy until the very last grade of school, finally becoming noticed by the person she has admired. Reading it today didn’t touch me emotionally in the slightest bit though.
The reason why I didn’t give “Normal People” a higher rating than 3 ★ was the fact that I didn’t find the general idea of it particularly innovative or original. How often have we already heard about, read about or seen the story of an unpopular girl, who feels like she’s not exceptionally pretty, falling in love with the most popular guy at school. How at university their roles are turned around to be the exact opposites of each other & she finally becomes the one with tons of friends. How these 2 people keep on coming across each other in their lives, as if them being together was meant to be. To me it sounded like a slightly modified & simplified copy-paste version of the novel “One Day” by David Nicholls. A significant difference is the fact that “One Day” is double the length of “Normal People”, so maybe that’s why it didn’t become as popular.
I’m still baffled about the fact that the book got nominated for & won so many awards…. I guess that the people I could recommend this book to would be teenagers & young adults who are interested in a story about the relationship of two heterosexual individuals. For everyone else, you can pass on this one or rather read “One Day” instead. It also has a movie that goes along with it & you’ll probably enjoy it more 😉